tymshft

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Archive for the tag “football”

In which I hazard a guess regarding the future of (American) football

I recently ran across an article with two very significant data points. Here’s the first:

High school football enrollment is down 4.5 percent over the past decade, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

This is leading some high schools to disband their football teams – something that is shocking to the average American. The article cites several causes, including worries about concussions, as well as an increasing number of immigrant families for whom football (in the American sense) is not relevant.

While these may be the underlying causes for the decline of high school football participation, there’s another surface cause that affects things.

Youth levels of football, leagues high schools lean on as feeder systems, saw a nearly 30 percent drop in participation between 2008 and 2013, according to data collected by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association.

That’s an even bigger drop, with ramifications for the future of high school football.

But that’s not what concerns me – and you. What should concern us is when we extrapolate these numbers.

After all, if a decline in youth football leads to a decline in high school football, what does that mean for the future of college football?

And the National Football League?

Will the ranks of football players be decimated, causing the NFL to reduce to four teams and for the television networks to only offer $4.99 to cover NFL games?

Perhaps not.

I don’t know about the youth football figures, but the high school football declines appear to be regional.

More schools are fielding football teams nationwide, albeit with fewer players, led by surges in such states as Oklahoma, Florida and Arkansas, which together have added 150 teams in the past five years. But other regions – namely the Midwest and Northeast – are shedding high school football programs at a significant rate. Michigan has seen a net loss of 57 teams in the past five years. Missouri has lost 24. Pennsylvania has lost 12.

So it could be that future NFL players will come from certain regions of the country. This is not shocking – your average Major League Baseball player is more likely to come from California than from New York.

And perhaps the NFL may end up doing what baseball has been doing for years – importing talent from other countries to do the jobs that Americans don’t want to do. This may be a tall order – the NFL’s attempts to establish professional teams in Europe haven’t worked out – but for the right money, it’s likely that third world ballplayers may be induced to participate in a sport that protective American parents won’t let their kids play.

And you also have to remember that the talent at the top level is limited. Even if youth football declines by 90%, the NFL will still be able to field 32 teams. And perhaps even in that dramatic instance, the quality of the pro game will not diminish significantly, since only the elite of the elite make it to the pros anyway.

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Why Lem Barney is probably wrong about the future of football, even though he’s right

Lem Barney is a former professional football player who, according to USA Today, had some interesting things to say about his former livelihood.

Lem Barney is an NFL legend, a Hall of Famer who made his living playing football.

And he wouldn’t do it again.

Speaking Friday at the Sound Mind Sound Body Camp in Southfield, Mich., the Detroit Lions great said the sport would be gone within the next two decades….

“It’s a great game, and I think it’s the greatest game if you like gladiators. It’s the greatest game for yesteryear’s gladiators. But in the next 10 to 20 years, society will alleviate football altogether because of how strong it’s becoming, how big it’s becoming and the tenacity that it already is. And it’s only going to get worse.”

Barney was on a panel with some college football coaches, who (according to writer Mark Snyder) “appeared frozen” when Barney made his statements.

Maybe the coaches had suffered concussions themselves.

However, despite the numerous issues with people who suffered from football concussions, I’m not sure that Barney is right about the demise of football – even with Gregg Doyel’s 2012 input into the conversation:

Today it’s Troy Aikman saying he’s not sure he would let his son play football. Soon it’ll be the young parent down the street. Then more of them. And more.

You can’t play football without football players.

While Doyel’s statement is true, there are a number of businesses that are dependent upon advertising to football players, and there are a number of teams that need football revenue, and there are a number of cities that need football gate receipts.

And even if every parent in every one of the 50 United States refuses to let their kids play football, the advertisers and the teams and the cities will ensure that a steady supply of new football players can be acquired from outside of the country. They may even get their friends in Congress – themselves dependent upon the money and the votes supplied by these stakeholders – to approve new visa regulations to get professional football players into this country to do the job that no American is willing to do.

And with a steady supply of impoverished football players from the third and fourth worlds, football will hum along.

Go west, young sportsman

It took over a century for the western United States to be politically incorporated into the country. Initially a set of territories, portions of the West eventually achieved statehood, with the last two states in the continental western United States joining the country in 1912.

Integration of the region into the country’s sports landscape took a little longer.

Over thirty years after Arizona and New Mexico joined the union – and nearly a century after California joined – the so-called National Football League had no team west of Chicago, Illinois. As of 1945, the Rams were still in Cleveland, and even the Cardinals were still in Chicago. But the NFL moved with lightning speed compared to the other major sports.

Twelve years later, in 1957, the NFL had teams in Los Angeles and San Francisco. But in major league baseball, the Dodgers and Giants were still New York teams. But baseball was beginning to penetrate the West and the South – the Athletics had moved to Kansas City, and the Braves had moved to Milwaukee. The southern team in Major League Baseball was the Washington Senators. Of course, this would change over the coming years, as the Dodgers and Giants moved to California, the Athletics to Oakland, and the Braves to Atlanta.

A couple of years later, the 1969-60 National Basketball Association was miniscule compared to the NBA of today. The entire league consisted of eight teams, divided into Western and Eastern Divisions. Of the four Western Division teams, only the Detroit Pistons (now in the Eastern Division) have remained at their original location. The Minneapolis Lakers relocated to Los Angeles, the St. Louis Hawks to Atlanta (again penetrating the South), and the Cincinnati Royals underwent a slight name change – they are now the Sacramento Kings. (This week.)

Of the four traditional major sports leagues, it took hockey the longest to establish a western presence. As of 1966-67, this multinational league did not have a team west of Chicago. Of course, the National Hockey League only had six teams at the time. It wasn’t until the league doubled its size in the following year that you could see hockey out west.

It’s hard to conceive of a time in which there was no major league baseball, football, basketball, or hockey in my home state of California. But then again, Los Angeles has not had a football team since the mid-1990s. Now try to imagine Los Angeles without Angels, Dodgers, Lakers, Clippers, Kings, or Ducks, and you’ll have an idea what the city’s sports landscape was like in the 1940s.

No, Mark Sanchez does not have to worry about Peyton Manning (but who saw Tebowmania coming?)

I like to look at old predictions that went horribly awry – not to make fun of the person who made the prediction, but to analyze WHY the prediction went awry.

Today I want to look at a prediction that was entirely accurate – but still went horribly awry.

The following news item appeared in the Huffington Post (and other sources) on March 10.

After New York “looked into” pursuing Manning, Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum announced Friday night that the team extended Sanchez’s contract by three years.

The statement above is entirely true. But the article continued:

The move ended speculation the Jets could push him aside to make way for the former Indianapolis Colts star who’s now a free agent.

“I’m going to be the starting quarterback for the next few years here, and that’s exciting,” Sanchez said on a conference call. “It gives the team just a reminder that I’m the leader of this team.”

Yep, Sanchez is still the main man for Rex Ryan’s Jets, not Manning.

“To find out that I could come back for three more years means the world to me,” Sanchez said. “I’m absolutely pleased to be a Jet.”

However, there are infinite possibilities in the world, and the contract extension for Mark Sanchez did NOT mean that his job was secure.

As many of you know, less than two weeks after that contract extension was given to Sanchez, Peyton Manning did find a team – the Denver Broncos. However, the Broncos already had a quarterback, Tim Tebow. Perhaps you’ve heard people talking about Tebow. And the next thing you know, Tebow found a new team – the New York Jets.

It just goes to show that you can’t take anything for granted, and something that seemed to be a sure thing just two weeks ago is suddenly less so.

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